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4.9 out of 5 stars
Great Continental Railway Journeys: Series 2 [DVD]
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
If you have enjoyed Michael Portillo’s earlier adventures on the railways of the UK and Europe, then this second season of European journeys should be just as pleasing.
The film-makers have maintained the previous high standard of presentation, informal education and relaxed atmosphere to provide a superb showcase for scenic photography as well as an insight into European social and industrial history before the First World War. MP’s polished presentation is informative and engaging, and generously provides space for local experts and other travellers to contribute to the mix. It’s also smashing to see him relax somewhat in the familiarity of his home-from-home in Spain.

You don’t need to have seen any of the other series to enjoy this set, nor does it matter where you start your journey. Just sit back and enjoy the sights of 1913 France, Spain, Italy, Scandinavia and Germany contrasted with the current situation in some unusual regions of our European neighbours. Some of the destinations are obvious (Venice or Prague) but many others are off the beaten track – places you may never visit yourself but can experience secondhand.
Each programme is an hour long and follows one particular railway journey or theme. The German journeys typically include more historic railways while the episodes through France and Spain are mainly undertaken on modern trains. Instead these programmes follow an historic theme, like Edward VII’s holidays of the early 1900s at fashionable resorts along the Bay of Biscay. The emphasis is more on social than industrial history (bathing in Edwardian costume, tasting the wine, seafood and delicacies of the region, the background to Basque nationalism), although the inclusion of a funicular railway, Bilbao’s remarkable transporter bridge and a traditional ‘scenic railway’ – a roller-coaster by any other name made all the more invigorating by its age and potential decrepitude!
Throughout, MP refers to his 1913 Bradshaw’s railway guide, seeking out stunning buildings which still survive today, using archive footage and photos where they exist. Other forms of transportation get a look-in, too, including a vintage Volvo in Sweden (of course) and a titchy Fiat in Italy. The programmes also include many unusual historical footnotes, like a reassessment of the true character of Casanova. No one subject sticks around for long enough to become boring – each segment runs to 6 or 8 minutes or so – and instead we see a snapshot of historical, industrial and architectural highlights along each route.
As with earlier series, although it was broadcast in high definition, there doesn’t seem to be a Blu-ray release so we lose the impact of the stunning scenery which is a shame (especially on the mountain sections).

Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable series. It has particular relevance in 2014, the centenary of the outbreak of WW1, as MP discusses much of the social situation in 2013. Without labouring the point, this series demonstrates just how much our societies all lost in that conflict.
After watching, you might end up with a better understanding of how the EU functions, for example, or how the royal families interacted before the Great War. But while magpies like me can swoop upon bright shiny facts and store them, many other viewer will just appreciate the views!
Oh, and if this series inspires you to try Continental rail travel for yourself -- go do it. It's a fab way to travel.

9/10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"I'm embarking on a new railway adventure that will take me across the heart of Europe. I'll be using this - my Bradshaw's Continental Railway Guide, dated 1913 - which opened up an exotic world of foreign travel..."

This gentle introduction by the host leads leads us once again into yet another episode of this excellent series.

Michael Portillo, featuring his interesting sartorial choices, is our tour guide to the rail tracks. With his 1913 Bradshaw in hand, we follow him on his journeys as armchair travellers.

I was surprised that this series was not available on Blu-ray.

I find all these series of his just ideal for relaxing after coming home after a day's work. Indeed I first saw them featured on TV around teatime. In some respects the bygone eras he covers strike me as being a more civilised time to be alive. (This was before the horrific carnage of the first World War and the changes to society that ensued thereafter).There was a gentler pace to life instead of the frenetic one that we experience nowadays. This is part of the charm of the series.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 12 November 2014
This is the second of the Continental Railway journeys which is really interesting and informative. Michael makes the program interesting and by talking to local people brings out some of the places and working environments/industries which give incite to the areas visited. As well as this, he gives interesting accounts of the various railway journeys that can be visited and encountered. Overall a DVD really worth watching.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 28 April 2014
Both the Great British and continental railway journeys are superb fact based travel style documentaries, I have found there are a number of interesting places here in the UK and in Europe. Each episode is well made with plenty of variety and facts. This series two of the Continental programmes is as good as series one and is very stylish and brings back the classic golden era of speeding through Europe by train.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 2014
We greatly enjoyed this series of frank and honest travel experiences. In fact, we savoured each hourly episode and didn't want it to end. One of those timeless pieces that we shall watch time and time again.
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on 6 July 2014
This series of journeys is just as interesting as the last set and you learn so much about the countries especially the 20th century history .I have watched them several times and learn more and notice facts I have missed .
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on 5 June 2014
This is an excellent quality product. Following the showing on TV it was a must for my Husbands collection.
Would recommend it to any one keen on Railways but also to their partner as the scenery was fabulous.
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Told by my daughter that she enjoyed every minute of it and am sure will watch it again and again !!!!
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on 23 May 2014
I have been waiting to get a copy of this DVD for years! I so enjoyed Michael Portillo's interesting glimpses into his past life in Spain... making this a very personal journey for himself but also I have visited a lot of the places he visits and talks about so informatively that it also makes it a lovely personal remembrance for myself. Thank you to whoever brought this back for the public to buy and enjoy.
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on 21 May 2014
As always Michael Portillo just paints a wonderful, picture of railway travel, and gives such a interesting picture of the continent
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